The thing about movies is that they inspire us. It’s the way the cinematography and music come together in perfect harmony to convey a magical adventure. You can visit arctic landscapes, wild jungles or even see inside the mystical culture of a forgotten tribe from the comfort of your living room.
We have hand-selected our favorite Hiking and Outdoor movies which we found to be truly inspirational and leave you thirsting to escape into the uncharted wilderness. (Or simply leave you in awe of its unforgivingness.)
1. Into The Wild
A great movie about a young man, Christopher McCandless (Played by Emile Hirsch) who decides to leave the high life to do some soul searching. After giving away all his earthly wealth to charity he heads off to Alaska by hitchhiking and hiking through the wilderness, eventually he sets up home in an abandoned bus.
On his journey he meets many life changing characters who play a part in his soul searching trip. Directed by Sean Penn in 2007 is well worth it. Available here.
In 1996, Kiwi Robert Hall partnered with Scott Fischer to Summit the worlds highest mountain. This movie is not for the faint hearted and depicts the real life test of inner strength, and a bit of madness, needed to embark on such a journey. It has a truly star-studded cast including Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington and Jake Gyllenhaal.
The expedition goes all kinds of wrong as the teams work together to try and beat the elements. If you’d like to watch it today, you can find it here.
The landscapes of the Himalayas are magnificently beautiful and diverse, check out this link for more inspiring images of mountain passes in Northern India.
3. Six Million Steps: A Journey Inward
This documentary film looks at the lives of hikers who decide to tackle the Pacific Crest Trail, which spans the entire length of the United States west coast.
This is one of those films where the viewer is taken along with the hikers through changing landscapes and all the emotions, hardships and joys of committing to an adventure like this.
The pacific crest trail sets off at the Mexican border and ends at the Canadian border, a journey through forest, over mountain and along the coast. A great watch by Endless Moon Productions 2011. Grab the DVD here.
Starring Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed, this is the story of a woman who has been through a lot of emotional trauma after a divorce and her mother’s passing.
A life of turmoil and drug abuse takes a turn and Cheryl decides she has had enough, so she packs a backpack and heads off on the Pacific Crest Trail on her own. The movie takes us through her determined mind and willpower to overcome her grief and hardship along this epic North American trail. Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee’ in 2014. Available on DVD, BluRay and Online.
5. A Walk In The Woods
A light comedy which takes us on an adventure with well-known travel writer Bill Bryson (Robert Redford) and his lifelong friend Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte).
Bryson retires to his homeland in New Hampshire and while he and his wife are attending a funeral, he takes a short wander along part of the Appalachian Trail. He decides that he would love to hike the whole trail, his wife however does not like this idea and eventually he invites an old friend, Stephen Katz to join him.
Stephen was looking for a reason to get away from unpaid debts and agreed to join Bryson on this journey of odds, where they both realise that at their age the trail is actually too much to handle.
At one point they take a tumble over a steep cliff and are left stranded overnight, only to be rescued by a group of hikers the next day. They accept defeat and decide to call it quits. A fun and light hearted comedy directed by Ken Kwapis in 2015. Watch it here.
6. Touching The Void
This action packed documentary drama film about Joe Simpson and Simon Yates’ 1985 attempt at scaling the west face of Siula Grande in the Andes, will have you on the edge of your seat.
Their accent of the mountain was successful but on their decent Simpson breaks his leg and his climbing partner Yates, needs to lower him over the steep cliffs by rope. Emotionally charged with the life or death decision that Yates needs to make after losing Simpson over a cliff’s edge, he eventually needs to cut the rope that is holding Simpson.
Believing that Simpson has been killed he makes the journey back to base camp, while Simpson was still alive and crawling down the mountain through crevasses and across scree slopes. Simpson makes it back to the camp in a dreadful condition to be re-united with Yates. Dramatic and tense all the way, this 2003 movie directed by Kevin MacDonald is certainly worth the watch. Get it here.
7. 127 Hours
Producer Danny Boyle brings the epic story of Aron Ralston to the screen. Aaron (James Franco) gets his arm caught by a falling rock near Moab in Utah. He is trapped for, you guessed it, 127 hours.
James Franco perfectly conveys the fear, desperation and agony that Aaron would have felt during the ordeal. Available here.
8. Mile… Mile & A Half
This documentary film about five friends that decide to leave the daily grind and complete the 211 mile long John Muir Trail in 25 days was never intended to become a film in the first place.
This group of friends had the intention of creating a very short feature on their trip, but realised that they had accumulated so much footage that the only way was to create a full length film about their journey.
One of those real life films where the initial group of 5 friends grows along the way, with additional hikers from all walks of life and spiritual journeys, on the same path to fulfilment.
Beautiful scenery with brilliant footage makes this film easy and fun to watch and highly recommended. Check it out.
9. Climb To Katahdin
A cool documentary about a loving and devoted couple and their dog, who make a self-filmed journey along the Appalachian Trail.
Made on a shoestring budget and filmed with basic camera equipment, the film has that indie sort of feel but makes you feel quite at home in the shoes of these people. The dog carries his own camera on his backpack, giving a perspective of what he experiences along the way.
It will most certainly appeal to any hikers, travelers and dog lovers who would enjoy making the pilgrimage along the great Appalachian Trail. DVD and BluRay.
10. Blind Courage
This 2017 film directed by Clint Ross is based on the true life story of Bill Irwin.
A reformed alcoholic, Bill Irwin attempts to complete the Appalachian Trail only with the help of his guide dog, because he is actually blind. The courage and determination of a blind person to tackle a hike as long and arduous as the Appalachian Trail is to be applauded.
Charged with emotion and real feel, Blind Courage will make you think again about being grateful for what we have in life. A really great film about determination and gratitude, it is worth every minute. Learn more in their Facebook Page.
11. (oops, we went over) Southbounders
This soft and friendly fictional film has all the qualities of romance, friendship, reality and comedy rolled into one. A heartfelt story set on the Appalachian Trail starring Amy Cale Peterson as Olivia, a young medical student whose studies and career choice seem to be coming apart at the seams.
She makes the decision to leave for an extended sabbatical to hike the well Appalachian Trail, a favourite soul searchers walk. On her journey she meets an unlikely hiker called Slackpack and a young, attractive hiker Rollin acted by Scott Speiser and a love begins to bloom.
A film by Ben Wagner released in 2005. Available here.
Hope you enjoy this list of great movies and documentaries. Interesting that the Appalachian Trail features in so many hiking movies, clearly showing its popularity as the perfect place for a soul searching trip. Maybe these movies will make you want to get your packs and boots ready!
If you need more, check out this great list on IMDB.
Get out there and make your own hiking movies with one of these excellent backpacking camera’s.